Category Archives: Social Media

What Facebook’s New Happy Birthday Message Process Teaches Us About Authenticity

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Image: cc Angelica Portales Flickr

Let’s be real: there is very little about Facebook that is authentic. And now that extends to birthday greetings, too.

Authenticity is the basis for all our communications, it is how people judge the message and the messenger. Was that an authentic greeting, or did it contain snark? Is this sales person just pushing product or is she/he giving me good advice? Continue reading

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Choose The Correct Lens For Your Marketing Plans

Courtesy of photographer Ryan Haddad

Sometimes people get so wrapped up in tactics that they try to make one tactic fit all strategies.  Two articles and a phone call this week reminded me of this. And, also, a project I am currently working on, but more about that later.

The first article is a plea on Search Engine Watch asking Can We Please Stop Hyping Social Media as the Marketing Messiah?  Not only a fitting title for the week, but a reminder that using just one lens to view our goals blinds us to other possible, and Continue reading

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WordCamp Portland Day 1: Why Am I Here?

I made it through the first day of WordCamp Portland 2009, not the type of conference I normally attend. But I learned a great way to help some of my less-technical customers develop continuously updated content on their web site by using Microsoft Live Writer to add to their WordPress based web site.

This may not seem like a major breakthrough to sophisticated web developers, but making it easy for non-technical people to add content to their web site has been difficult. Most non-technical people quickly choke and their eyes glaze over when presented with a typical CMS or blogging dashboard. Although there are millions of bloggers using similar tools on blog sites, most of these sites restrict the tools to a range of flexibility that meets the needs of the most basic author and avoid confusion.

I support a web site for a dance company, Dance West, where having dancer-created information would be an excellent addition to the site (this is a site built on WordPress using a variation of the K2 theme). The problem is that these dancers are not technically proficient and they already blanched when confronted with the dashboard.

Using Microsoft Live Writer allows them to work within a familiar user interface to “type” in their content, adding photos and videos as they go, in what looks like a simplified version of Microsoft Word, an application they are all familiar with. I’ll be starting them using Live Writer in the next couple of weeks and I think there may be another client or two who will be interested in using this same process to engage their employees and speak to their audience.

This post is my first using this method as a trial.

This is one of the valuable ideas I picked up on the first day at WordCamp Portland 2009. I also enjoyed the talk with Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, and a discussion on plugins used by WordPress designers to extend the capabilities of WordPress for different businesses. More to come tomorrow.

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Answering Why Businesses Should Blog

Earlier this morning I spoke about social media at a small networking group meeting. The question of why to blog came up.

In this case the questioner had employees tracking billable hours and he was not interested in losing billable hours to blogging or other social media activities. We quickly worked through a couple of scenarios that might meet his needs using current staff and then looked at what he could do through outsourcing or adding overhead. He immediately understood the idea of his company becoming a thought leader in his business through blogging and that his employees would showcase their acquired knowledge to customers and prospects.

What I failed to point out at the time, and covered in a subsequent email, was the added benefit that his blogging employees were also sharpening their relationship selling skills by applying conscious effort in writing about their professional expertise. A tweet in my Twitter stream reminded me of this sharpening effect when the tweeter linked to this 1:37 YouTube segment of Seth Godin and Tom Peters discussing the core value of blogging.

Listen near the end of the clip where Tom Peters says, “No single thing in the last 15 years, professionally, has been more important to my life than blogging. It [blogging] has changed my life, it has changed my perspective, it has changed my intellectual outlook….it’s the best damn marketing tool by an order of magnitude I’ve ever had.”

This video is now in my favorites and I’ve added the quote to my slides for presentations. Maybe the best part about this is that it also proved the value of the Twitter stream and the serendipity that comes with checking the stream instead of always having completely narrow focus.

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Five Reasons Small Businesses Should Use Twitter

Small business marketing can be tricky, it needs to reach your customers quickly and easily without costing an arm and a leg. Twitter, no matter what the buzz you’ve heard, is a great communication tool that can help you with marketing and sales. Here’s why:

1. Most business is small business.
More than 99% of business in the U.S. is small business, defined by the SBA as under 500 employees (more staggering, the percentage is actually 99.7%). But 500 employees is a really large business in most of our eyes, so a more important number for this discussion is that over 98% of businesses in the U.S. have fewer than 100 employees. Mike Clough, a serial entrepreneur and SCORE consultant, has a very readable blog post that helps parse the dense SBA figures (and you might want to read Mike’s blog on a regular basis).

Why are these numbers important? They show that if Twitter can be used in business, and I’ll write more later on businesses using Twitter, then the overwhelming majority of businesses using Twitter will be small businesses.

2. Your customers are using Twitter.
And more will begin using it this week. According to Nielsen, Twitter grew 1382% between February 2008 and February 2009, rapidly expanding from less than a half-million to over 7 million users. The overall numbers are still small, but this growth rate means over 91 million people using Twitter next February.

Twitter users are not kids. Better yet, the sweet spot of Twitter use is in the 35-49 age group, this group represents roughly 42% of all Twitter users and the core age group of the working world. This number will definitely change as Twitter use continues to grow, but it is an important age group for small business sales.

3. Your competitors are probably using Twitter and they are talking to your customers.
Come one, you already know this. When was the last time you tried some marketing or sales activity and you didn’t find out or know that a competitor was already doing this? The boom in Twitter business use followed the boom in Twitter users, it’s an organic growth curve, but you can still get started now.

The New York Times recently covered business use of Twitter and mentioned some small retail business uses along with the typical array of large corporations, but they left out the backbone of American business. They left out the business-to-business, industrial/commercial aspect of business. Twitter talks to and through your distribution chain, reaching your reps, distributors, and retailers, as well as your end customers, affecting end-to-end marketing along your entire distribution chain, no matter how many tiers and branches in that chain.

4. You can extend customer loyalty.
There’s a period following the purchase process where the customer becomes loyal to your product or company. Continuing that loyalty can be hard for small businesses, especially when repeat business is spread over longer periods. You can use Twitter can keep customers in the loop on your product or service, keeping them in a positive purchase state long after the sale is complete, possibly through to the next sale. And the word-of-mouth

Even better, it doesn’t matter whether your customers are local or geographically dispersed. Your regular sales skills are the main requirement in Twitter, the same as the conversation on the phone or in the office. One good difference is you can reach multiple customers at one time and then handle individual conversations through other methods appropriate to the customer need.

5. You determine how much time you spend using Twitter.
Twitter use grows organically, it is a self-defining use responding to the conversations surrounding your business. Yes, there is the group that tweets what they had for breakfast, but far more serious questions and discussions also happen on a minute by minute basis. Finding these discussion depends on your customers and their habits, but the best place to start finding them and listening to their discussions is by using a form of search.

Use TweetDeck or Seesmic, desktop applications that will continually track and report uses of searchable terms used in your business. Or use TweetBeep to get search term uses emailed directly to you (be careful with TweetBeep, it’s great for lower search activity but can overwhelm your email inbox if a search term is heavily used). These tools can get you started effectively using Twitter in business, but there are many other methods as well.

So that’s five reasons to start using Twitter today. There are many more reasons, but they will be specific to your business needs, feel free to comment here or email me with specific questions and I’ll try to give you some quick general answers to your possible uses.

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Let’s Exploit The Difference Between Facebook & MySpace

OK, the word “exploit” may have a charged meaning to some people, especially in light of the recent CNET article by Chris Matyszczyk discussing a presention by Danah Boyd, of the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, on how organic demographic separations appear in groups using technology.

Danah’s speech, given to the Personal Democracy Forum, was intended to deflate the somewhat rosy view that technology is a great demographic equalizer, and she used a comparison of Facebook and MySpace users as an example. According to Danah, Facebook users tend to be higher income, higher educated, and racially separated (white) from My Sapce users (lower income and education, non-white). She spends lots of time in her speech differentiating between the two groups. Chris asks, “Do we care?”

I think we do care and here’s why: From a marketing perspective, we need to reach our audience, so understanding the differences and exploiting those differences is important to our business operations. Rather than bemoan the fact that people search and choose their online community, or not caring that there are differences online, we should celebrate those differences and work to meet those differing audiences on their terms.

This is something that large corporations do in traditional media purchases and we can put this to good use for small business in new media. Rather than commiserate over the differences in audience, we can use the differences to more effectively market our products and services to different market segments.

If I want to reach a market segment that tends to have higher education and a suburban lifestyle, then Facebook may be a good choice for my marketing strategy. But if I focus my products and services on a more urban group, a group that spends more social time with new music, then MySpace might be the answer to reaching my core audience. I already notice this effect in pro-bono work I do for a small dance company, Facebook generates better response and greater interest than MySpace delivers. There are many communities outside of Facebook or MySpace, and other examples of this differentiation that we can also exploit.

Now for the caveats. There are many ways to slice this demographic inforation and none of them are perfect matches. There are no hard and fast rules, and no specific quantitative research. Also, things change swiftly in the online world and what is currently true may be completely false and ineffective in a mater of months. But the point is that by carefully considering our audience we can match our message to the environment and the audience to gain the greatest efficiency of effort.

The question of whether or not technology is the great equalizer is a valid discussion, but it is not a marketing question. Our only marketing question is “are we reaching the right audience with the right message?” Anything else is neglecting our business.

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Web 2.0 is officially dead: WSJ writes a big story

You can tell when a movement dies: it becomes recognized by your parents and guides are written about it by major media.

I’m being only half-facetious. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has taken upon itself to describe “The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World,” and that pretty much hammers home the final nail in the web 2.0 coffin (yes, the tired cliches in this sentence are here for a reason).

Is the WSJ wrong or did they write a bad article? No, in fact they provide a fairly clear and concise look at web 2.0 marketing. But, this article is late, very late, in the marketing lifecycle. The WSJ so much as admits they are late in picking up on the web 2.0 trend when they state, “Millions of people have become familiar with these tools….” The article states the standard web 2.0 advice (i.e., don’t just talk to consumers–work with them throughout the marketing process,etc.), and even suggests coining a term for the type of person who should be directing these web 2.0 marketing directives (a “technopologist”, sounds too much like an “apologist” to me), but this comes at a time when many people are suggesting steps beyond web 2.0 is in the making (see Peter Kim’s “Social Media Predictions 2009” and read Charlene Li’s prediction on exclusivity).

As said above, the WSJ doesn’t say anything necessarily incorrect or bad, and this is not the first time they’ve paid attention to marketing on the Internet, but this coverage just seems late in the game. Read the entire article, see how it fits your marketing strategy; you are most likely beyond the basic steps outlined in the article, after all, you are reading a blog entry, one of the most basic web 2.0 components. If you are not taking these basic steps, then maybe it is time to review your marketing strategy.

Maybe I misunderstand the WSJ audience, maybe their audience is made of marketing followers, but somehow I think that impression is wrong. Then again, my teenage kids wonder how relevant Facebook is anymore since they discovered I’ve had a page there before they joined. To each, his own.

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